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Through Project Looking Glass with Hideya Kawahara
Pages: 1, 2, 3, 4

The last one [is] a challenging one. When we think about a scheduler application, we usually think about a calendar motif. Instead, the developers of this application wondered how they can make the scheduling process completely different and more fun. They then decided to use the solar system as the motif.

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Figure 9. A solar system scheduling scheme--click for full-size image

Each orbit represents a kind of schedule, and a planet represents a schedule item. The more important the item is, the larger the planet becomes. It demonstrates an out-of-box thinking toward 3D applications.

Again, all of them are still under development, but I'm very happy to see that Project Looking Glass is serving as a platform of their exploration toward 3D applications.

JL: What sort of general problems have you had as the project has gone along?

Hideya: Initially we got lots of negative feedback like "3D would never work for desktop UI" or "it is just full of eye candies." I think it took more than one year until we start hearing opinions like "this project is not just an eye candy, but may have something real".

Also, the area we've been exploring was quite new. There were lots of trial-and-error situations, including the API design and the internal architecture. We find more issues as we go.

Although we have lots of keen supporters around the technology, development of this kind of system software requires a huge effort. We have a very long way to go. We are always looking for someone who shares the vision and is willing to contribute.

JL: What do you have coming up, and what further possibilities do you see for the functionality of the thing?

Hideya: One idea we've been discussing recently is Project Looking Glass as a 3D UI toolkit, in addition to being as a desktop system.

Many of community members suggested that the 3D API project significantly simplified writing 3D applications that involve user interaction. Some say that they could write a 3D application without a major trouble even without 3D knowledge. We project owners thought this is a great suggestion, and one of us has started working on this aspect.

In this scenario, the toolkit can be considered as a utility library on top of Java 3D. One significance is that such Java applications written using this 3D toolkit, together with Java 3D, will run on top of most of the desktop environments, Linux and Windows, without running Project Looking Glass desktop. We think this help broaden our audience and gain more interest from the community.

JL: Will this be able to link to native C or C++ apps? I'm just wondering about applications that need real-time performance--such as audio apps and the like.

Hideya: A typical way to deal with such a situation is to use a Java wrapper over native libraries. This can be done by using Java Native Interface (JNI). As for audio and video, Java has Java Media Framework (JMF) that provides Java API to control media resources.

3D Desktop-Related Projects

  • Project Looking Glass
  • Project Looking Glass project page
  • 3d-Desktop is an OpenGL program for switching virtual desktops in a seamless three-dimensional manner on Linux. The current desktop is mapped into a full-screen 3D environment where you may choose other screens. Several different visualization modes are available.
  • SphereXP is a 3D desktop replacement for Microsoft Windows XP that takes the concept of three-dimensional desktops to its own level. It offers a new way to organize desktop objects such as icons and applications. Check the videos and screenshots to get the idea.
  • The 3DNA Desktop improves the way you work with Windows and the Web. You can choose from different 3D Add-on Worlds to explore and customize for an immersive and entertaining desktop. 3DNA is not a replacement for Windows--it works seamlessly with your current setup, while giving you a much better way to use your computer.

John Littler is chief gopher for

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